Skip to content using Screen Reader
What it would Take
Home | Back to How To List

How to Help Gamers who are Blind

Gamers who are Blind are the Same as Other Gamers

Our experience with gamers who are blind is that, as a group, they're the same as other gamers.

There are some very technically savvy blind gamers out there. These are people who understand Windows; who understand command line options, the Registry, screen resolutions (yes!) memory, disk, and the other technical stuff that makes our lives so "interesting."

Listen to these people. They can help you determine if your game can be made blind accessible and even suggest how.

There are also some blind gamers for whom the computer is a total mystery. They may be highly intelligent, but they do not know the technical terms needed to tell you what they want.

Help these people as you would any user. Our experience is that if you are patient, you can draw out what it is that they want.
Gamers who are Blind are Different from Other Gamers

Yes, they can't see the screen and mostly don't use the mouse.

They also generally understand screen readers far better than you do and can understand speech at about twice the rate you can.

They also know what controls and game objects you aren't letting them hear or control; and you don't.

They also may know solutions other developers have come up with to make their software blind-accessible. For example, making background sound optional, making self voicing speed controllable, making your minimum screen resolution fit on netbooks.

They can tell you when your installation program is totally unusable by a person who is blind, and why, and where you can find a better one.

However, Gamers who are blind may mistake a lack of sound for your program hanging.

In their emails they may mis-spell words because they've learned them phonetically and don't have the constant re-inforcement sighted people do.

Blind Etiquette

People who are sighted often are uneasy dealing with people who are blind because they don't want to be offensive or look stupid. Here's some of what we've learned:
Words
It's OK to use words like Look, See, TV, Movies. People who are blind use them all the time.
People First Language
Brian Charlson, Director of Computer Training Services at the Carroll Center for the Blind, and an assistive technology leader, first taught us this.

If you say "Person who is blind" as opposed to "Blind person" you emphasize that they are a person first, who has the attribute of blindness.

Sensitivites to this vary; and it is a more awkward phrasing.

But it is a courtesy.
Visually Impaired
By Visually Impaired we mean a person can see some, but not much. They may have a large black area in the center of their vision, or be able to see only large light and dark objects, or have some other restriction.

The important point is, people who are visually impaired distinguish themselves from people who are totally blind.

Specifically, they want to use what vision they have in playing your games.

Again, sensitivities vary; but you should be aware of this distinction.
Installation and Configuration
People who are blind tend not to want other people to muck about in their computers.

Make your installation programs blind accessible by making them work with screen readers. See Screen Readers and Games.
Handicapped, Disabled, Specially Challenged
We've heard all sorts of opinions on these terms, from folks with personal experience.

The collective term we use for people who are blind, deaf, or motion impaired, is Specially Challenged.

For more on blind etiquette, see:

American Foundation for the Blind - Etiquette
Blindskills, Inc., Publisher of DIALOGUE magazine - Interacting With A Blind Person
Final Words

Our experience over many years of professional software development is that our most useful guidance comes from users.

Gamers who are blind can give you the opportunity to improve your games for everyone, make you a stronger developer, and expand your market.

For technical details, look at:

Screen Readers and Games
Self Voicing and Games

John Bannick
Chief Technical Officer
7-128 Software

jbannick@7128.com